The Church of England has seen a gradual but steady reduction in carbon in 2021, according to the latest data from the national Energy Footprint Tool (EFT). Meanwhile, more than 400 churches across England are now reporting ‘net zero’ carbon emissions, an increase of 157 on the previous year, as part of the most comprehensive data collection to date.
The EFT was launched in 2019 to measure and record carbon emissions across the Church of England and is reporting data for the third time. For 2021, the data is now consolidated across all settings, including Church of England schools.
It estimates that overall carbon emissions were down by 5,000 tonnes CO2e in 2021 to 410,000 tonnes overall, compared with 415,000 in 2020, despite buildings being open for more of the year than in 2020. The data also included travel-related emissions for the first time. In the Diocese of Coventry, the carbon footprint of church buildings is down from 2100 tonnes CO2e in 2020 to 1800 in 2021.
The 2021 report, published today, includes data from church schools, clergy housing, cathedrals, offices, theological education institutions, and work-related travel, in addition to the actual church buildings which were also recorded in 2020.
It also notes that Covid-19 mitigations including lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 were likely to have had an impact on the figures, with churches closed for public worship and gatherings for some parts of both years.
Data was gathered from 39% of churches and 68% of Church of England schools. The number of churches using the tool has increased since 2020. In Coventry, 43% of churches submitted their 2020 data and this rose to 57% for 2021.
Church of England schools emitted around 196,000 tonnes CO2e in 2021, a small increase on the equivalent figure of 195,000 tonnes of CO2e in 2020.
The report also details an increase in churches which have taken up renewable energy tariffs (31% to 33%).
The Bishop of Selby, John Thomson, who is the Church of England’s lead bishop for Net Zero Carbon, said:
“While there is more work to do, there are some positive indicators that the Church of England is making progress towards our target, and every effort, small or great, is important and welcome.
“Despite the welcome return to public worship and to schools in 2021, the carbon decrease on the previous year is cause for encouragement.
“With the publication of the Church of England’s route map for Net Zero earlier in the year, I am excited about the potential for the rate of change to increase as more resources become available to help churches, schools, chaplaincies, and buildings to take steps to reduce carbon.
“At a time when fuel poverty is affecting millions, as Christians we have a duty to respond. Across the church estate this means ensuring that the buildings are as energy efficient as possible and that we are moving away from expensive fossil fuels by changing technology and using energy from green, sustainable sources. These are the solutions needed everywhere to halt global warming and to abate energy poverty.”